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Massachusetts Court Discusses Liability for Harm Sustained During a Sporting Event

Many sports and activities present an inherent risk of harm, and the people who engage in those activities are deemed to consent to the risk of the type of injury ordinarily caused by such activities. If a person engages in a reckless act during such an activity, though, they may potentially be held liable for the harm caused by the act. The appeals court of Massachusetts recently assessed the standard for imposing liability on a person for harm sustained during a sporting event, in a case in which a hockey player sustained significant injuries. If you sustained injuries due to the reckless acts of another person, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss what compensation you may be owed.

Facts Surrounding the Plaintiff’s Injury

It is reported that the plaintiff was injured during a hockey game, that was held during a championship tournament.  The plaintiff, who was 17 years old, was checked into the boards by a player from the opposing team. It is disputed as to whether the hit was a charge, in violation of hockey rules. After the hit, the plaintiff fell to the ice and temporarily lost consciousness. While he was on the ice, his wrist was sliced by the blade of another player’s ice skate. The plaintiff subsequently suffered a partial permanent loss of his right hand, which was his dominant hand. He then filed a lawsuit against numerous defendants, including the player that struck him, alleging claims of recklessness and negligence. The defendants filed motions for summary judgment, which the court granted. The plaintiff appealed.

Liability for Harm Suffered During a Sporting Event

On appeal, the court noted that generally, issues of recklessness and negligence are issues for the jury, but when it is clear based upon the evidence of record that no rational interpretation would permit a finding of negligence, judgment in favor of the defendants is proper. The court stated that with regards to liability arising out of an act committed during a sporting event, participants engaged in such events have a duty to refrain from engaging in reckless acts.

In a game such as hockey, that inherently involves intentional conduct that poses a high risk of harm, for conduct to be reckless, it must be extreme misconduct that is far beyond the range of the typical activity that is part of the sport. Thus, even if an act is considered a violation of the rules of a sport, it may be considered an inevitable part of the sport unless it is an egregious act of misconduct.

In the subject case, the court found that checking another player was an inherent part of hockey and that holding a player liable for such conduct would violate the policy established by the Massachusetts courts. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Meet with a Knowledgeable Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney

If you were injured in an accident caused by another person’s reckless acts, you should meet with a knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss what you must prove to recover compensation. The skillful attorneys of Karsner & Meehan have the experience and knowledge needed to set forth a compelling case in favor of your recovery of the full amount of damages you may be owed. You can reach us at 508-822-6600 or through the form online to set up a meeting.